Balancing social and economic interests with family sponsorships

Balancing social and economic interests with family sponsorships
On Nov. 4, the Canadian government announced it was taking immediate action to cut the backlog of parent/grandparent sponsorship applications by suspending any new applications for the program. It vowed to decrease the backlog of 165,000 files by increasing the number of those backlogged applications processed during 2012. In addition, the government will be introducing a new “Parent and Grandparent Super Visa,” which will allow eligible applicants a 10-year visa valid for multiple two-year stays in Canada. This Super Visa will become available on Dec. 1.
The reaction of the immigration bar to this announcement has been mixed. While some counsel applaud the government’s efforts to address the extensive processing times (five years and counting), others are concerned that the unspoken “truth” is that the government no longer places an importance on sponsoring parents and grandparents.

There’s been much discussion about the various benefits and drawbacks of the parental sponsorship program. Among the benefits are the importance of family reunification as a tenet of the Canadian immigration program, the benefits that parents and grandparents provide with respect to familial issues such as childcare, and the liquidated assets that many parents and grandparents bring to Canada when they land as immigrants. The drawback arguments have included the possible increased demand on health-care services from elderly new immigrants and the general lack of contribution to the Canadian workplace as elderly new immigrants may be less likely to enter the Canadian labour market.

The theory is the Super Visa would deal with the positive aspects without incurring any of the negative ones. While information kits are not yet available online, Citizenship and Immigration Canada has indicated that Super Visa applicants will be required to undergo an immigration medical examination; demonstrate they have purchased private Canadian medical insurance; and provide a written commitment of financial support from a child or grandchild in Canada who meets a minimum income threshold. If approved, they will be allowed to remain in Canada for two years at a time without access to health care or the labour market.

While I can appreciate the benefit of having parents or grandparents visit for a long time, and the positive effects this could have for Canadian citizen and permanent resident families, in my mind it falls short.

The Super Visa will allow foreign parents and grandparents to come to Canada, to visit for up to two years at a time and to spend their money, but it will not allow them to make Canada their home, to build a life here with their Canadian citizen/permanent resident children, or the certainty of where they will be if they unfortunately require some sort of long-term care or treatment. It also creates uncertainty for the Canadian citizen/permanent resident offspring who is concerned about long-term care options for a family member, which would be alleviated by having a Canadian permanent resident parent.

It’s a fine balance between the economic and social benefits of having family sponsorship in general. As a society, we want to encourage the best and brightest potential immigrants, but this means offering more than just the possibility of jobs. It also means allowing them to sponsor their family members and to build a complete life in Canada. For many people, this will mean having the ability to sponsor parents or grandparents, and even siblings, who continue to be ineligible under the Canadian family sponsorship class.

It will be interesting to see how these changes affect the program and if the Super Visas decrease the number of overall applicants under this class if/when the suspension is lifted and the class becomes operational again. The Super Visa will likely offer a speedy option for parents and grandparents who are interested only in visiting their Canadian children, and it certainly addresses the issues surrounding access to health care, but it ignores many of the social reasons why people sponsor their parents and grandparents to Canada in the first place.

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